MOTORING SPORTSMEN. Mr. j. G. Parry Thomas, M.I.E.E., M.I.A.E. By THE EDITOR.
HIDDEN away among the hangars at the far end of the Brookland.s Track there is a little house called ” The Hermitage,” whence the owner emerges from time to time, startles the motoring world by some daring attack on a speed record, and then retires for a further period of experimental research.
Adjoining “The Hermitage” are the workshops and designing offices presided over by Mr. J. G. Parry Thomas, who has become famous all over the world, not only as a racing car driver of more than ordinary daring, but also as the designer and builder of some of the fastest cars that have ever appeared on the Brooklands or any other track.
So far as we could judge as the result of an interesting interview with Mr. Thomas, the spectacular side of his career, his hair-raising manceuvres on the top edge of the track, and the terrific speeds of which his LeylandThomas is capable only form a minor part of his programme for developing automobile design ; for he is primarily an engineer, and looks upon the business of the track merely as the means for putting his theories to the test.
Mr. Thomas received his early training at the Central Technical College, London—a branch of the University of London—where he underwent a course of studies with the object of entering the professional field of electrical engineering. Unlike most men who have achieved fame in their professional careers, Mr. Thomas disclaims any suggestion of being particularly studious in his youth, and we were informed that even the electric bells in his parents’ house were allowed to continue in action without arousing his experimental proclivities. On leaving college Mr. Thomas became associated with Messrs. Clayton and Shuttlewortb. at Lincoln. When with the latter firm he invented the Thomas Power Transmission, an entirely novel system of transmitting power by elcctro-mechanical means, the advan
tages of which were so obvious that the inventor decided to leave Lincoln to develop the idea on broader lines. It will be remembered that the Thomas Transmission created quite a sensation in the technical world, and was applied successfully to rail-coaches, road-trams and omnibuses, one of the most successful applications of the system being to rail-coaches.
During part of the war period Mr. Thomas was engaged with Messrs. Armstrong-Whitworth in developing the Thomas Transmission for road-trains to be used for military purposes, but the company discontinued the work on the signing of the Armistice.
The termination of the war happened at a time when Mr. Thomas was about to produce a very advanced type of aero engine for the Leyland Motor Co., with which he was associated for seven years, the last five in the capacity of Chief Engineer and Designer. The Leyland ” Eight ” is one of the best-known examples of Mr. Thomas’s abilities as a designer, though if one were permitted to scrutinise all that is going on in “The Hermitage” workshops it is probable that more remarkable designs still would be discovered. The Leyland ” Eight ” was designed as representing the last word in high-class super-cars, and besides being the first straight ” tigh t ” to be built in this country, possessed many unique features in constructional details, most of these being of a very daring character. The engine was developed from the Leyland aero engine designs for which Mr. Thomas was responsible, and it is very instructive to note that when the car made its first appearance on Brooklands Track, with an absolutely standard touring chassis, it lapped consistently at roo miles per hour. Unfortunately for the credit of British automobile design, the policy of the Leyland Company underwent a change at the very time the Leyland ” Eight ” was becoming established in the market, and about this
time Mr. Thomas began to take a keen interest in highspeed automobile work, and, seeing the remarkable possibilities of his latest design, brought the machine to Brooklands and proceeded to “hot it up.” The principal part of the latter process consisted in fitting a special camshaft, and, with various modifications
in chassis lay-out, to secure more perfect streamlining, the” Leyland “soon became known as a record-breaker.
As all the engine parts had been balanced in the ordinary course of production, no attention was needed in this direction, but several kinds of camshafts were tried, and the order of firing was changed until the best results were obtained. Mr. Thomas’s next achievement was the production of the “Leyland-Thomas,” which was largely built up of Leyland parts, but provided with a very scientifically
streamlined body, about which, it will be remembered, there was some controversy concerning its description.
The most notable performance of the latter car was lapping Brooklands at 128i miles per hour and breaking the hour record at IO9i miles per hour, which included a change of all wheels.
The Thomas Specials, designed and constructed by Mr. Thomas at “The Hermitage,” are probably the fastest unsupercharged cars in the half-litre class. These machines are built of the well-known Malicet et Blin (M. & B.) units, with Thomas engines. The method
of suspension employed is very unique, and has been designed as the result of close experimenting with track-racing conditions. In the course of a tour of inspection in Mr. Thomas’s workshops we observed several new cars in course of construction, including one which has already been christened ” Babs.” This promising infant is to have a Liberty aero engine, which is being prepared so as to
develop no less than 600 h.p. One of the existing Leyland chassis will be suitably lengthened to take the monster power unit, and it is hoped that a speed of 200 miles per hour will be reached, but Mr. Thomas does not propose to attempt putting ” Babs ” through her “premiers pas” on the Brooklands Track.
Though still in the drawing office stage, the 1,500 C.C. Thomas “Straight Eight” promises to be an extremely interesting production, which, incidentally, will be of “All British” manufacture, and will be available to the general public, though only built to order.
We were very astonished to find that Mr. Thomas could not,ror would not, relate any extraordinary experiences during his racing career, and, as stated previously, he appears to take but little interest in track work except from his own peculiar attitude as a speedcar designer. One would have thought that a driver known to the French as “Le Diable Audacieux ” would at least have been able to recount a dozen thrilling incidents, but in this respect we have to plead guilty of disappointing our readers.
Mr. Thomas explained that he preferred Brooklands for ordinary racing events, but where attacks on records are in question his choice lies with Montlhery.
According to his idea the former track would be vastly improved from the public point of view if a grand stand were to be erected just before the cars entered the Railway Straight, which would give the spectators a clear view of practically the complete circuit. Mr. Thomas does not agree with the idea of promoting standard car races, for the simple reason that there would be so much difficulty in drawing the line as to the modifications permitted by the officials and the amount of doctoring that could be done without ever being detected. While his energies appear to have been devoted almost entirely to developing and racing his own cars, Mr. Thomas has an extensive practice as an automobile
engineering consultant, and is always ready to place his services at the disposal of those interested in the advancement of automobile progress. Mr. Thomas’s hobby seems to be that Z° designing and racing motor cars, but at one time this was varied by a few games of tennis at Queen’s Club, and generally,
when he can spare a little time from his work, he designs or builds another racing car.